Two weeks ago, Basic Food Flavors issued a recall of all hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) in powder and paste form that it has produced since September 17, 2009. No illnesses have been associated with the recall at this stage, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said the risk is low, because most of the products containing the common flavor enhancer would be cooked after the ingredient was added, destroying salmonella. However, ready-to-eat products pose a greater risk, and the complexity of the supply chain means that the number of recalled products is expected to balloon.
Basic Food Flavors, which until now has not responded to media calls for comment, said the FDA and the press, covering FDA reports, have wrongly implied it knowingly distributed salmonella-tainted products. The company said that after it was notified that one production lot had tested positive for salmonella, it concluded that only that lot was contaminated and notified the only customer to which it had been shipped.
Basic Food Flavors told FoodNavigatorUSA.com in a statement: “While it is unclear whether FDA is suggesting in the Form 483 that Basic Foods knowingly shipped adulterated product, the language used by the agency and reported by the press has created that implication. We, therefore, consider it important to clarify that Basic Foods has not knowingly shipped into commerce any product the Company believed had the potential to contain Salmonella.”
The FDA’s form 483 – the inspection report issued to the firm – said: “After receiving the first private laboratory analytical results [dated January 21] indicating the presence of Salmonella in your facility, you continued to distribute HVP paste and powder products until 2/15/2010. Furthermore, from 1/21/2010 to 2/20/2010, you continued to manufacture HVP paste and powder products under the same processing conditions that did not minimize microbial contamination.”
Basic Food Flavors said that repeated positive tests for salmonella at the plant were not a result of the pathogen spreading, but due to the company deliberately testing those areas that were most likely to be contaminated. And contrary to the FDA inspection report, Basic Food Flavors said it “implemented immediate corrective actions” to address the discovery of salmonella at the plant.
The company was first notified of a possible contamination through the FDA’s Reportable Food Registry, when a customer found salmonella in HVP by routine testing and filed a report on February 5.
Basic Foods said it and one of its customers analyzed data on 150 different production lots and that apart from the lot recalled on September 17, all have tested negative for salmonella. The company began notifying its customers of a recall on February 26, and the FDA publicly announced the recall a week later.
Basic Food Flavors has been uncommunicative with the media during the recall, but David Wood, the company’s sales and marketing manager, told FoodNavigator-USA.com that he had hoped that not speaking with the press would help publicity of the recall to pass quickly.
“Quite honestly, we didn’t bother answering the press because we just wanted it to go away,” he said. “…It’s working. It’s beginning to die down.”
The recall affected “only 10,000lb of 10 million,” he said, equivalent to 0.1 percent of the HVP produced by the company.